From Vietnam Veterans Against the War,

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Betrayal: Toxic Exposure of US Marines, Murder and Government Cover-up

By Aaron Davis (reviewer)

Betrayal: Toxic exposure of US Marines, Murder and Government Cover-up
Robert O'Dowd and Tim King

(O'Dowd and King, 2014)

Betrayal is a true story of US Marines who were exposed to carcinogens, injured, and continue to fight for health care and compensation. The Marine Corps leadership at Marine Corp Air Station El Toro, CA, denied ownership of a major trichloroethylene (TCE) plume spreading off base into Orange County for 16 years, may have ordered the shredding of records, and the burial of 55 gallon drums containing TCE on base to hide them from the Marine Corps Inspector General after their use was not authorized. Thousands of veterans and their families were once stationed at El Toro, the premier Marine Corps jet fighter base closed in July 1999. On the East Coast, legislation to provide health care for Camp Lejeune, NC, an active military installation, was passed in the 112th Congress in August 2012 through the Janey Ensminger Act. However, no veteran compensation was included in the Act. None of the veterans that served aboard these two installations were notified of their exposure to deadly contaminants when it was discovered, resulting in both bases earning Superfund Cleanup Site status. There are 130 military installations on the EPA Superfund database?a list of the most environmentally-hazardous sites in the US. Except for Camp Lejeune, no veterans of these installations were notified of their possible exposure to toxic chemicals and other contaminants (e.g. radiation) and the health effects of exposure. Thousands of veterans have died without 'connecting the dots' between their cause of death and military service. Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) like the American Legion can easily inform their memberships of the toxins and their health effects of the contaminants found by EPA on military installations by establishing an internet link to the EPA Superfund database on their websites. This information can literally save lives but doesn't appear to be a priority for any VSOs.

Betrayal reports on the murder of Marine Colonel James E. Sabow and other Marines whose deaths are tied to use of El Toro's assets during the 1980s and 1990s to import South American cocaine into the US and to export guns to the Contra Rebel faction of Nicaragua. Demanding a court martial to clear his name of false charges of misuse of government aircrafts, which threatened to blow the whistle on the use of El Toro's assets to support narcotrafficking, Colonel Sabow was found dead on his quarters' patio by his wife on January 22, 1991. The circumstances surrounding his death and the forensic evidence from the crime scene support murder by a government assassination team. Crime scene tampering and government cover-up at the highest levels including a "doctored autopsy photograph" submitted in a Defense Department report on the death of Colonel Sabow to Congress in 2004. An affidavit in 2010 to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) by an internationally-renowned pathologist reported homicide and crime scene tampering. The pathologist orally withdrew the affidavit. The 2010 NCIS cold-case investigation dismissed homicide as the manner of death, reaffirmed the false charges of misuse of a government aircraft, and depression and suicide as the manner of death. Colonel Sabow, a decorated Vietnam fighter with 221 combat missions, met his death at the hands of others. The autopsy report by Orange County (no Navy doctors) made no mention of the unexpected violent blow to the right side of the head, which caused unconsciousness. Occipital skull fragments penetrated into the back of his brain. He was near death due to the massive brainstem trauma in which agonal hyperventilation characteristic of this type of injury occurs. Sabow was aspirating blood from a wound in his pharynx that resulted from a basilar skull fracture. In fact, the tracheae, bronchi, bronchioles and alveoli were filled with blood, doubling the weight of the right lung. His shotgun was found under his body. No fingerprints on the shotgun. No suicide note. There was no mention in any government report of the three men who flashed government credentials, forcing Naval Investigative Service (NIS) agents to leave the crime scene. The motive for the murder was to prevent the disclosure of a covert operation to ferry weapons to Central and South America and government-sanctioned narcotrafficking on flights into El Toro. Data processing records were purged on the maintenance of unmarked C-130s; a Marine with knowledge to purge the records was unexpectedly promoted, transferred, and murdered several years later. Other Marines who knew of the illegal drugs would meet violent deaths.

"Betrayal" reports the denial of responsibility and the cover-up to hide the truth of environmental contamination from veterans, their dependents, and the public at El Toro. These include:

Betrayal provides the legal argument for presumptive disability compensation for Lejeune Marines who currently have access to the VA for 15 medical conditions associated with organic solvent and benzene exposure to contaminated well water on the base over a 30 year period (1953-1987), and presents the argument for a Science Advisory Board (SAB) with backgrounds in environmental exposure, environmental assessment, heath monitoring, and other relevant fields to objectively evaluate the risk of toxic exposure of the 130 military installations on the EPA Superfund list.

Taking care of veterans should be one of this country's highest priorities. There's a critical need for medical monitoring of veterans exposed to toxic chemicals and the evaluation of disability claims from Superfund sites by scientists with environmental exposure backgrounds. The VA's current system provides no routine medical care monitoring for those at risk for toxic exposures while veterans are left to their own resources and skills to file disability claims frequently denied by administrative staff without input from scientists with backgrounds in environmental exposures. The disability compensation claim denial rate for Camp Lejeune veterans is about 84%.

Betrayal was written by two former El Toro Marines. Robert O'Dowd is an investigative reporter and columnist, and Tim King is a photojournalist, war correspondent, and the Executive News Editor of O'Dowd, a retired Defense Department manager, honed his investigative skills as an auditor for EPA Inspector General. King, a Los Angeles native, spent the winter of 2006-2007 covering the war in Afghanistan, while he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the US Army and Marines. King holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991). King has several years of experience in network affiliate news TV stations, having worked as a reporter and photographer at NBC, ABC and FOX stations in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon.

Aaron Davis is the VVAW contact in Utah. He was a Marine who served at Camp Lejeune, one of the sites of contamination.

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